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Effects of firn ventilation on isotopic exchange

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A new model of isotopic diffusion in the upper few meters of firn tracks the isotopic composition of both the ice matrix and the pore-space vapor through time in two dimensions. Stable isotopes in the vapor phase move through the firn by diffusion along concentration gradients and by advection. Wind-driven ventilation carries atmospheric water vapor into the firn, where it mixes with existing pore-space vapor. Unlike previous models, our model allows disequilibrium between pore-space vapor and the surrounding snow grains. We also calculate the isotopic effects of ventilation-driven sublimation and condensation in the firn. Model predictions of isotopic diffusion in firn compare favorably with existing diffusion models. Model results quantify what other investigators have suggested: isotopic change in the upper few meters is more rapid than can be explained by the Whillans and Grootes (1985) model; isotopic equilibration with atmospheric vapor is an important component of post-depositional isotopic change; and ventilation enhances isotopic exchange by creating regions of relatively rapid sublimation and condensation in the firn.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2004

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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